Should Attorney General Sam Olens lead Kennesaw State University? Students will say ‘no’ at Monday rally.

Kennesaw State University students plan a rally against Sam Olens becoming their new president Monday. (Photo KSU)

Kennesaw State University students and faculty continue to raise concerns over reports that Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will be their next president.  On Monday, students are holding a “Say No to Sam Olens” rally at noon. A petition portraying the hiring of Olens as a step backwards for KSU already has 3,524 signees

Why is the KSU community upset? Here is one professor’s explanation.

Leonard Witt is a professor with nearly 15 years of teaching and research at Kennesaw State University. In this column, he cites his concerns over the possibility that Chancellor Hank Huckaby will tap Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to lead KSU. Olens is a two-term Republican who previously led the Cobb County Commission.

On Sept. 19, the AJC reported the widespread speculation Olens would step down to take over the 33,252-student KSU.  AJC political reporter Greg Bluestein noted:

Olens has stayed mum on whether he will step down this year to take the reins of the school, which has faced troubling financial questions and the loss of its president, who abruptly announced his retirement just before the release of a damning state audit. The Board of Regents has declined comment, too. Rumors are swirling at the Capitol, and even Olens‘ decision to return a portrait of himself at the Capitol prompted a new wave of speculation.

“We still have an attorney general, last I looked, ” said Gov. Nathan Deal, who wouldn’t bite on a recent question about whether Olens would make a good fit at KSU. “Those are decisions that somebody besides me has to make. Sam Olens has proven himself to be a very good attorney general and he’s garnered the support of the public.”

With that background, here is Witt’s column. (Olen has some defenders as this AJC story reports.)

By Leonard Witt

In 1996. the Olympics committee refused to allow the Olympic torch to be carried through Cobb County because of the county’s bigoted stand again homosexuals.

Cobb County — via its most important asset Kennesaw State University — is destined for the same criticism if the University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby and the Board of Regents appoint Sam Olens as the university’s next president. They would be doing so without a whisper of faculty or any other constituency input,  thus breaking a long academic tradition and its own normal hiring procedures.

Already the KSU LGBTQ community members are signing petitions. A a headline in Project Q, a popular Atlanta blog, screams out “Gay marriage bigot Sam Olens to become KSU president.” Unfair? Perhaps, but how do we know,since the selection process is coming from the darkest corners of state government. As attorney general, Olens ardently opposed both gay marriage and now gender neutral bathrooms. Hence, the headline.

Given Cobb County’s history, try as the chancellor may argue otherwise, important national constituencies are going to be outraged­ about the secret meetings aimed at appointing a candidate who they know will infuriate the LGBTQ community and their allies at Kennesaw State, in Cobb County and throughout the state and nation.

The nation’s largest foundations that support higher education demand respecting diversity in all its forms. An active foe of gay marriage or transgender neutral bathrooms for KSU president? Cobb County again? We have better places to put our money. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nike and just about every other major corporation may well openly or silently boycott Kennesaw State University. Plus, the tainted brand name will not exactly be a student resume builder.

Just see what is happening in North Carolina, where the state Legislature and governor passed laws opposing gender neutral bathrooms. In North Carolina, sanctions are piecemeal around the whole state. Not so here. Kennesaw State University will be ground zero and there will be plenty of collateral damage in Cobb County and all its towns and cities, especially if its leadership sits silently by without protesting this bad decision-making process by the chancellor and Board of Regents

It does not have to happen this way. Chancellor Huckaby and the Board of Regents can do what has traditionally worked so well at Kennesaw State University and most other top universities in the country. Search committees are formed. Candidates from across the nation apply. A diverse group of KSU faculty, alumni, students, foundation and community members help guide the chancellor and BOR in making their decision. It is a rewarding process for everyone involved and helps to build a healthy university community with full buy-in. It is also a transparent process.

Of course, Sam Olens should be encouraged to apply and then we can all see how he stacks up with the other candidates. Taking any other action could destroy, perhaps permanently, the great reputation that all members of this university community and Cobb County have worked so hard to achieve over the last 50-plus years.

Let’s, this time, show the world that Cobb County carries the torch for all its diverse communities.

 

Reader Comments 0

48 comments
OlensSupporter
OlensSupporter

What difference will hiring Olens make? He will be moving on to his gubernatorial campaign after a few years. As of this writing, KSU is still wracked with sex scandals, financial embezzlement, discrimination lawsuits, an established track record against women in general, as well as students, staff and faculty of color. A Google search will pull them up. None of these have been resolved all these years. The bigger issue should be changing the powers of the BOR to make political appointments like these in the future without full community consultation.

UltraElf
UltraElf

@OlensSupporter faculty of color? ah yes discrimination against the red, yellow. purple and green faculty. They are upset that the black and brown faculty are getting special privileges. Like  tenure and protection and they don't have to earn it. Is this the same discrimination going on against the WHITE faculty at Morehouse, Spellman and Morris Brown colleges? What is being done about that?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Really depressing that the Regents are strong-arming KSU like this...and, from the scuttlebutt I've heard, it's the state Republican legislators who really are strong-arming the Regents on this. They want Olens to go up as a candidate for Governor in as strong a position as possible.


No national search for the President of a state University!!

RedTabby MeowMix
RedTabby MeowMix

He doesn't have any experience managing a tertiary educational institution. I have nothing against him personally (sans the whole anti-gay part, not good!), but he doesn't appear to have the necessary and relevant experience or skills for the position. This really really looks like a mere political appointment and is NOT a good thing for KSU's reputation.

Indydawg
Indydawg

He's not qualified for the position. This university just moved to over 30K and upped it's research profile.


MotocrossSurvivor
MotocrossSurvivor

All I had to do was read the first paragraph of this Witt person to get his "profile."  So why do you continue to work in such a 'bigoted' county fool?

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

If the KSU students and faculty are against Olens, then that in itself is a reason to select him.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Students want safe spaces, trigger warnings, and free education. Faculty want complete freedom to teach their ideas and ban contrary ideas. See Emory University as a case in point.

Indydawg
Indydawg

@BurroughstonBroch  Not true. Extreme liberalism wants that. Students want a good education and not of this other political nonsense that goes along with it. All of this you're speaking of isn't restricted to KSU.

UltraElf
UltraElf

@redweather @BurroughstonBroch Olens would stop progressive liberal teaching, stop islamicizing the college, prevent the gender confused from oppressing the straight population, and make all queers get a check up from the neck up. Morals will be brought to Kennesaw.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Intersting reading about how we little guy taxpayers sacrifice to pay big bucks to our "betters".


"We encourage Georgians to call their elected officials and request the introduction of a new Bill to bring back accountability by our state’s higher education officials. Demand answers from your elected officials. Do not accept any more rhetoric that has become the norm and acceptable.

The fact the Georgia Constitution allows the Board of Regents of the USG “exclusive authority” to do what they want, and be accountable to no one – not even the Senate and House Higher Education Committees or the Appropriations Committee – is reason enough for a Bill to be introduced.

It is the bank accounts of hard-working Georgians and USG faculty, staff and students the Board of Regents are depleting which has allowed USG presidents and administrators to laugh all the way to their banks for years….and their second home in St. Simons, like retired former President David Bell does with his $347,300 salary from 2014!"


https://www.google.com/search?q=georgia+board+of+regents&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS598US598&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=633&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQuryy8bnPAhWJ8z4KHd-3BLAQ_AUIBygC&dpr=1.5#imgrc=-vCpreTdlFki2M:



RedTabby MeowMix
RedTabby MeowMix

@AvgGeorgian Then change the Georgia Constitution, don't pass a expensive unconstitutional bill that will be struck down eventually anyway. Oh, wait, that's too hard to do.

redweather
redweather

I must be missing something. KSU has an Interim President, Houston Davis. Why isn't the university now forming a search committee to select the next president? 

Ryan Blythe
Ryan Blythe

I'd be more concerned about a 42 percent graduation rate after 6 years than Mr Olens political affiliation.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Ryan Blythe GA Tech only has an 85% 6 year grad rate. Aren't you worried that they can't do better than that considering they only take the very highest performing students? 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@BurroughstonBroch 

Yes, you are getting it now.

 You would have to do a study that takes the academic skill level of entering students and compare it against the difficulty of the grad requirements. You would also have to add in the financial means/support of students and their need to work while in school. I would guess more KSU students leave because they can't afford to continue. 

My  point  is that people toss around statistics like grad rate % without considering the huge differences between student populations, schools and programs within schools. I do notice the more conservative posters rarely research their opinions or engage in logical discussions.

BG927
BG927

Politics aside, as both an alumna and mother of 2 alumnae, I like to know just what experience Olens would bring to the position. He has never worked in academia to my knowledge or held a position like this as far as I know. The Board of Regents and KSU need to go through normal hiring procedures for this type of position.

UltraElf
UltraElf

@BG927 what experience and skills did obama have to be POTUS? NONE!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Mr. Olens has none of the skills or knowledge to be the president of KSU or any other college.

Belinda51
Belinda51

Neither did Janet Napolitano and she's Chancellor of the entire California University System. But she's a Democrat, so guess that's okay.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

The President is the public face and chief fund raiser, nothing more. Olens can do that.

Kulture Kritik
Kulture Kritik

People, get real.  Stop turning everything into the same old tired culture war.  Olens' anti-gay views are just a sideshow.  The real issue is that ad hoc appointments as university presidents are insane.  Olens has zero academic experience, zero experience managing this kind of business (and it is a business), and (so far as his past would show) zero interest in this type of job.  No respected university in the nation appoints a president this way.  If the state of Georgia wants to ruin the reputation of KSU and make them a laughing stock, this is perfect.  If the state of Georgia wants to devalue the degrees of thousands of alumni, great.  I hope all the alumni write angry letters to their state representatives and senators.  


I've heard stories that this is all about internal Republican politics, trying to position particular individuals for the next governor's race.  Maybe, maybe not.  But I'd love to see one of these stories opening speculating on that.

Toni Strieker
Toni Strieker

@Kulture Kritik 

We have heard the same stories on campus for months, but none of this had legs until the Atlanta Business Chronicle made the announcement a few days ago. If the fire continues to blaze, hopefully there will be more investigative reporters focused on discovering facts. (What a novel idea in this election cycle.)

Music111
Music111

No "Astropig", this is exactly what the civil rights movement was all about. The movement was about getting protections into place for minorities, which by -definition- means "the few." Sam Olens, whether it's fair or not, represents the opposite. His fight against gays is bad enough, but it's his dismissal of transgender residents and students that will tilt the balance here. If the Board of Regents wants both everyday people and investigative reporters (who don't work for WSB) to start digging into their affairs, then they should continue with this and make Sam Olens president of KSU. Currently, no one on the street can name a single member of the Board of Regents, or explain how they got there. That would change. And let's not get it twisted, this is not the doing of Governor Deal. Poor guy is getting caught in another fight he didn't start. Keep your eye on the Board of Regents.

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@Astropig @Music111

It must hurt you bigoted trolls that people are rightly calling out homophobic and racist folks. Its not 1964 anymore. Cognitive dissonance is a mother isn't it?

Astropig
Astropig

@Music111


Right.Lets throw another virgin (?) (!) in the volcano to appease the gods of PC.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Contrary to your oft-proclaimed opinion, the University System's primary purpose is not to be a vehicle for black and LGBT politics and agenda advancement.

UltraElf
UltraElf

@Music111 the UNCIVIL rights act?  you mean giving rights to uncivilized people?  How about the oppression by gays upon straight people, who for years have been peeing in peace without fear of creepy stalkers. Now, the creeps are allowed to go into ANY bathroom and spread their stupidity. How would YOU feel if the entire KY basketball team used the women's showers with YOUR daughter in it? Huh? See the point? Anyone can claim Shania Twain syndrome and feel like a woman just to use the women's lockers. If you feel like a woman, get a sex change operation.

Astropig
Astropig

So Mr. Witt would deny the school's leadership position to someone who is qualified based on what a tiny minority of students might want? He presumes to speak for all of them? Isn't this the exact mirror image of what the civil rights movement was all about? Is there a litmus test  for every position in KSU? Isn't this like the McCarthy era that "progressives" point to as an example of how not to govern?


BOR-The world is watching.You can bow to political correctness and be cowards or hire the best person for the job (and it may not be Sam Olens for all I know) and do what is best for the entire university.The needs of the many far,far outweigh the needs of the few.

Astropig
Astropig

@Astropig


Let's see...Who was our president in 1996? Hmmm.Kinda tall fellow,southern drawl,smooth with the ladies.He attended the olympics but I just can't recall...his...name.It's on the tip of my tongue.Gosh,you'd think that whoever was president back in those days would have boycotted the olympics in protest.I wish I could remember...

Lexi3
Lexi3

Oh brother. So, KSU's biggest challenge is how to further a political agenda pushed by a sliver of people outside government and academia?

daks_
daks_

God knows liberal arts colleges and big city newspapers are two places never lacking in extreme Democrat partisans.